Review: The Duke of Andelot by Delilah Marvelle

The Duke of Andelot (School of Gallantry #7)The Duke of Andelot by Delilah Marvelle

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review.

THE DUKE OF ANDELOT is the triumphant conclusion to Delilah Marvelle’s excellent School of Gallantry series, but like the other books before it, it can easily be read as a standalone, even if you don’t know who everyone is in the lovely epilogue. I myself came into this series with book 4, NIGHT OF PLEASURE, and since then have enjoyed going back and discovering the stories running concurrently with all the others.

As the final book of the series, THE DUKE OF ANDELOT is somewhat different from the rest in that the bulk of its story takes place decades earlier. In it we learn how the notorious Madame de Maintenon found her own true love, only to lose him, perhaps forever, to the chaos of the French Revolution. Before she was the toast of Paris and London, she was merely Thérèse, the butcher’s daughter, tramping through the countryside on her way to her beloved cousin Remy and his small Paris theater. When a threatening highwayman turns out to be Gérard, a highly placed aristocrat on his way to attempt an improbable rescue of his beloved godfather, Thérèse is attracted to him, but skeptical of his motives. As their journey continues, their love for each other grows as quickly as the danger they both face while the Revolution speeds toward its predestined conclusion.

I’ll admit that when I first started reading, I was disappointed to begin in the past, with only my knowledge that this was Madame de Maintenon’s story to keep me from immediately losing interest. But once Thérèse and Gérard find themselves completely in love with each other, I was thoroughly hooked. And by the time they each must make the decisions they need to stay alive, I was awash in tears which lasted all the way to the short but satisfying epilogue which tied up the whole series in joy. Even the small repetitive parts (for those familiar with the previous books) couldn’t keep me from wallowing with glee in the Happy Ever After for the woman who had brought so many to others before her and the one man worthy of her love. THE DUKE OF ANDELOT is a satisfying historical romance for anyone who loves a happy ending that’s merely delayed, not denied.

View all my reviews

Review: Say My Name by J. Kenner

Say My Name (Stark International Trilogy, #1)Say My Name by J. Kenner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

In SAY MY NAME, J. Kenner returns to the world she established in her original Damien Stark erotic romance trilogy, only this time the heroine is Stark’s most trusted employee and her hero is the one man she’s loved enough to push away for his own good. When the only way Sylvia Brooks can save her first solo Stark International project is by begging Jackson Steele for help, that rescue could cost her own sanity. But as the two star-crossed lovers slowly learn to love and trust again, they soon find what’s at stake might be their own lives.

Although I quite enjoyed the original Stark trilogy, I’ll admit this new book started a bit slowly for me. I’ve never been a big fan of trying to guess what the initial relationship was between the hero and heroine, or what broke them apart so brutally that she fears his harsh reaction as he initially tries to reject her. So the story was a bit frustrating for me until the flashbacks were over and we were completely in the present. But from that point on, I was completely enthralled, even already knowing how Kenner structures these trilogies so that the first two books end on a tentative Happy For Now, saving the Happy Ever After for the final story.

Both Jackson and Sylvia have endured terrible childhoods which are still influencing their present lives more than even they could have predicted. They can’t stay apart any longer and yet everything seems to be conspiring to split them up anyway. And hovering over it all is the outsized influence of Damien Stark himself, to the point that Sylvia may soon have to choose between the man she loves and the man who has earned her complete loyalty. It’s a heady mix of love and intrigue, and Kenner continues to deliver a knockout experience that made me long for the next book even as I was more than satisfied with this story’s ending. To say more would give too much away, and I encourage everyone who loved the original Stark trilogy to read SAY MY NAME to find out what’s there for themselves.

View all my reviews

Review: The Companion Contract by Solace Ames

The Companion ContractThe Companion Contract by Solace Ames

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

THE COMPANION CONTRACT is the latest entry in Solace Ames’s excellent LA Doms series, and although it ended up being a good read for me, it wasn’t nearly as good of a romance as her previous stories.

In this story, we meet Amy Mendoza, who lost her entire family to deportation at the age of thirteen, forcing her into life choices that no child should ever have to make. Now eight years later, the world knows her only as the porn star Serena Sakamoto, and she’s made the most of what life has dealt her in order to stay alive and send money back to her family in the Philippines. But when Amy’s good friend Chiho needs rescuing from a Hollywood party gone wrong, the man who helps them out might end up being the one person Amy can count on to be there for her when nobody else ever has.

Emanuel de la Isla experienced the best and worst of life as he moved from a violent upbringing in South America to incredible success as part of the seminal rock band Avert. When he witnesses Amy’s strength in handling pressure under fire, he realizes she’s the perfect person to keep track of Avert’s problem lead singer as the band attempts a long awaited reunion album and tour. As Amy becomes indispensable to the success of the band’s future, it becomes all too obvious that she’s just as crucial to Emanuel’s happiness as he is to hers. But when the band’s planned future derails yet again, it remains to be seen if Amy and Emanuel’s love can survive outside the protected bubble they’d created together.

As with the other books I’ve read by Solace Ames, I was struck by the richness and elegance of how she structures her stories and develops her characters. No matter how unlike the events and people she writes about are with respect to my own life, I am always able to fully relate on an emotional level to what her characters are feeling and experiencing. In THE COMPANION CONTRACT, our heroine is a porn star who deliberately chose this career on her 18th birthday because she knew it was her best option to make enough money to support herself and her distant family. She falls in love with an albino Afro-Colombian who is the lead guitarist of the band she loved best as a teenager, and becomes the close friend of both the band’s lead singer, who has ongoing problems with drug addiction, and the trans woman he loves but cannot have. All of these characters are fleshed out beautifully and their interactions with the hero and heroine are both organic and essential. By the end of the story, each character is in a better place than they started, and optimistic that they will continue to be happy.

Yet, as a romance first and foremost, THE COMPANION CONTRACT missed the mark somewhat for me. Although I believed in Amy and Emanuel’s love, it was often pushed aside in favor of the various dramas associated with Miles, Avert’s unreliable lead singer, and Xiomara, the trans woman important to both him and Emanuel even as she was still learning how to live as her true self. And with the story told entirely from Amy’s first person POV, it was difficult for me to understand what motivated Emanuel beyond caretaking of his loved ones and a sexual pull toward Amy that she shared in return. That also affected my reaction when Emanuel and Amy were briefly separated, as she worried he wouldn’t return even though he swore he would, and I wondered why she didn’t believe him when I’d never seen any reason why he would lie.

Still, THE COMPANION CONTRACT is a lovely read overall and if you’re good with the romance being equal to other parts of the story, then you shouldn’t have any problems. Either way, I’m still a fan of Solace Ames and look forward to what she’ll be writing next.

Favorite Quote:

I wasn’t a beggar or a queen. I had room in my heart to love everyone who stayed behind.
I was only myself.
And that was enough.

View all my reviews

Review: The Virgin by Tiffany Reisz

The Virgin (The Original Sinners)The Virgin by Tiffany Reisz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

As each book in the White Years portion of Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series is released, we discover more about how this unconventional family came together as one. So if you’ve read the Red Years books, you can guess the outcome of The Virgin, even if you don’t know how you’ll get there. Yet that’s what makes each of these stories so remarkable, as Tiffany Reisz continues to capture the attention of readers who already think they know how everything will work out. With this latest release, THE VIRGIN, the story of how Eleanor ran away from the only man she’d ever loved and not only found herself, but helped Kingsley do the same, however inadvertently, and like the others, the story might not go quite as the reader might expect.

Eleanor could never have left Søren without being caught if she hadn’t had Kingsley’s detailed training on how to get lost and stay there. But once away, she needs a place where even Søren himself could not gain admittance. Her mother’s convent home may be an unlikely sanctuary, but just as unlikely is the one person who helps Eleanor find the strength to go on, with or without her only Master.

The moment that drives Eleanor away from Søren sets Kingsley on his own path in the opposite direction, unsure if he’ll ever return to his kinky kingdom. The despair of the woman he discovers outweighs his own, stoking his need to save them both. But as Eleanor and Kingsley both find new love away from home, will their individual travels bring them back to Søren or keep them all apart for good?

In THE VIRGIN, as in the others before it, it’s the journey itself and not the destination, and the personal quests for both Eleanor and Kingsley make it all worth reading. And like the other White Years books, we have a present-day framing device designed to keep us guessing as to what is actually happening and how it will affect our beloved characters. All of these threads are expertly woven together in a tapestry of extreme emotions which will keep the reader bouncing about with anticipation as to how it will all come together in the end.

I was happily transported by the majority of THE VIRGIN, with only the part of the story featuring Kyrie, the young novitiate and title character, falling somewhat flat for me. I couldn’t help thinking that her presence was contrived solely for the purpose of helping Eleanor out of the safety of the convent back out into the real world, especially with regard to Eleanor’s future career as an erotic novelist. But that’s a minor quibble compared to the glory that is the sublime romance between Kingsley and Juliette, the heartbreaking angst as Søren and Eleanor struggle with what has driven them apart, and the joy of the first wedding between two of my most favorite Original Sinners.

If you’re a fan of this series, THE VIRGIN is obviously a must read, even though it also means there is only one more book in the series before it all ends forever. I’m sure I’m not prepared to face THE QUEEN, but I can’t wait to read it just the same.

View all my reviews

Review: Protecting Fate by Katee Robert

Protecting Fate (Serve, #6)Protecting Fate by Katee Robert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

I’m a fan of Katee Robert’s romances but hadn’t read this particular series before reading the PROTECTING FATE novella. The good news is that it works well as a standalone without leaving the reader clueless or dumping unnecessary background information. It’s quickly obvious how the hero and heroine know of each other without having had the opportunity to spark any relationship before this moment.

Sara Reaver is still feeling the pain of her parents’ divorce and is trying not to resent her siblings for succumbing to marriage when they’ve all seen how bad it can be. Now that her own reckless actions have forced her into hiding with her brother’s best friend Zebadiah “Z” Loreto as protection, her deliberate avoidance of any emotional entanglements will be tested to the limit.

Z trusted a woman he loved, and nearly lost everything as a result. Sara needs him to be safe, but when he realizes there’s something more between them, it will take more than just their sexual connection to lead them to the happy ending neither thought could ever happen.

Although I would expect a reader familiar with the series to enjoy this story more than I did, there was plenty of romance to get me involved with the characters and root for them to succeed. The couples from the previous books work well as secondary characters here, and the initial danger to the heroine is resolved realistically, if somewhat preemptively. I was also gratified that the heroine didn’t just swoon into agreeing to marriage after her vehement objections to it for so many years. PROTECTING FATE is an intense and entertaining short read that I enjoyed enough to want to read all the previous books in the Serve series.

View all my reviews

Review: Red Handed: A Benediction Novel by Shelly Bell

Red Handed: A Benediction NovelRed Handed: A Benediction Novel by Shelly Bell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

Anyone who follows my reviews at all knows that I’m not a big fan of serials, but one of the best romances I read last year was Shelly Bell’s four part romantic suspense serial, WHITE COLLARED. So naturally I was excited about reading her full length follow-up novel, RED HANDED. The previous story introduced us to the super exclusive BDSM club Benediction, and now in RED HANDED, we get to see that club’s mysterious owner Cole DeMarco find his own HEA with a woman we meet at the worst time in her relatively short but turbulent life.

Danielle Walker was still in shock after her father had gone to prison and died there soon after, apparently by his own hand. But now that Danielle’s seen her own stepmother kidnapped by the same people who’d helped send her father to jail, she has only a few short days to infiltrate the BDSM club of the only man she’d desired but could never have, Cole DeMarco. The kidnappers want whatever Cole’s hiding in his private office safe, and the kidnappers want her to get there by offering herself up to Cole as a sexual submissive trainee. So off Danielle goes into certain danger, never suspecting that what she’ll find along the way is her one true love.

Cole had known Danielle as the lovely but off-limits daughter of a man who’d gotten over his head with a dangerous crowd. Now that she’s old enough to be naked and under Cole’s control, he’s the one who’s over his head in what is definitely overwhelming sexual attraction but could also be the love he’s tried to avoid his whole life. With the impending danger to them both, there’s no time to take things slowly, and when everything Danielle believes in gets turned on its head, it’s Cole and Danielle’s love that will ultimately see both them and the reader through.

I love this author and this new series, but I’ll admit I was seriously put off by the initial premise of RED HANDED. Romantic suspense is always a bit tricky for me, as there’s only so much violence I can handle as a reader, so the opening scenes involving Danielle’s stepmother and the kidnappers’ threats were almost too intense. The idea that Danielle was being forced to participate in a 24/7 BDSM relationship under duress really didn’t sit well with me, but I continued on, trusting that the author would get me to the place where everything made sense. When that moment arrived, my relief was palpable, and my enjoyment of the story unconditional. Cole and Danielle are more than equally matched in both body and spirit, and as the story progresses, we see how their romance was inevitable in spite of the evil forces that had brought them together. The twists and turns are never too over the top, and the final HEA is well earned. If you love romantic suspense with a BDSM flavor, Shelly Bell’s Benediction series, including RED HANDED, is a must read.

View all my reviews

Review: Unraveled by Lorelei James

Unraveled (Mastered, #3)Unraveled by Lorelei James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

One of the best things that can happen in an ongoing series is when the author can redeem a mostly unlikeable character from an earlier book as the winning love interest in a following book. In UNRAVELED, Lorelei James has taken Ronin Black’s sister Shiori Hirano, a woman I initially disliked and only begrudgingly came around to liking, and made her the best heroine yet in the MASTERED series.

Now that Ronin is off on a trip to Japan to continue his martial arts training and spend time alone with his new wife Amery, his Black Arts dojo is temporarily in the hands of his sister Shiori and his right hand man Knox Lofgren. On the surface, this combination seems like a disaster in the making, since all Shiori and Knox ever seem to do is fight for domination. Yet there’s a deeper attraction under all the sparring, and when Shiori discovers Knox’s true nature, it’s all she can do to keep from immediately claiming him for good. Knox wants to be the man that Shiori believes he is, but it will take more than irresistible sexual desire to help them get past all the obstacles between them and happiness, not the least of which will be Ronin’s reaction to all that’s happened in his prolonged absence.

The ongoing transformation of Ronin’s sister Shiori from interfering and unapproachable to supportive and emotionally vulnerable without losing her innate strength has been a big draw for me in the MASTERED series and it’s a joy to see it come to fruition in UNRAVELED. As strong as she has needed to be from the start, it’s only when Shiori lets down her guard with Knox that we see the full person behind the facade. And when Knox trusts her with his newly discovered submission, the results are exhilarating. We see so much more of both characters and what’s shaped them into the people we think we know today that when they come together, it’s seems impossible that they could have ever resisted each other before. Even when the dreaded black moment of big misunderstanding arrives like clockwork, we see that neither of them is really ready to give up for good, and it makes their final HEA all the sweeter.

UNRAVELED is a solid entry in a series that keeps getting better and better for me, and I can’t wait to see how Lorelei James is going to keep it going next.

View all my reviews

Review: Vanilla by Megan Hart

VanillaVanilla by Megan Hart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

When I pick up a Megan Hart erotic romance, I know I’m going to get my heart broken, and all that’s left to discover is how, and whether or not she’ll put it back together again by the end of the book. What I got with VANILLA was heaping helpings of everything I love about her books, with a heroine not quite like any other she’s written and a hero who more than lived up to that definition by how he overcame his own fears and misguided notions to be the man most worthy of the heroine’s love.

Elise knows who she is and what she needs in the bedroom, and she’s not going to give that up for any man, not even one who might be her best shot at true love. After all, the last time she let love overrule her best judgment is still an open wound on her heart, and the last thing she needs is another one.

Niall wasn’t expecting to fall for his friend’s older sister, let alone have her push him into a sexual role he’d never ever thought about, let alone considered as something he could enjoy. But Elise is different and special and that one woman who just might be able to show him another way of making love, and in the process, find the self he didn’t know he’d had.

Any preconceived notions of how a Megan Hart book will go and what you’ll get by the end should always be thrown out, as anyone familiar with her books should already know. When we first meet Elise, I made assumptions about her based on the way she still couldn’t let go of the man who had hurt her even though he’d let go long before. Yet as her on again, off again romance with Niall progresses, I could see that the strength she shows in the face of his initial derision and resistance was a direct result from her previous emotional damage, and how it was Niall who needed to decide if what she offered was what he could take without losing what he’d always thought was his sexual identity. I was so proud of them both for working through the conflicts that threatened to separate them even though they loved each other so much, and how their happy ending was about more than just love and acceptance of the other person, but also of themselves. VANILLA was a perfect Megan Hart story for me and I’m so glad I was able to read it.

View all my reviews

Review: Montana Actually by Fiona Lowe

Montana Actually (Medicine River, #1)Montana Actually by Fiona Lowe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

Fiona Lowe’s MONTANA ACTUALLY is the first book in her new Medicine River romance series, and while there were some elements of this book that I quite enjoyed, there were others that made it a difficult read for me overall.

The primary romantic couple in MONTANA ACTUALLY have both just arrived in the tiny Montana town of Bear Paw despite their best intentions. Dr. Josh Stanton is in town to work off his sizable student loan debt after having to fund his own medical school education when he refused to be the type of doctor his wealthy father had always expected. Katrina McCade, an experienced ER nurse, had grown up in Bear Paw but left for the big city to chase her dreams of success and love. Now after a devastating romantic betrayal, she’s back to regroup and decide what to do with the rest of her life. When Josh becomes Katrina’s unwilling tenant, the immediate sparks between them inevitably lead to an affair that they both agree shouldn’t require any ongoing commitment. But when tragedy strikes Katrina’s family, she and Josh will need more than sexual desire to heal the wounds they both carry in their hearts as they learn to trust and love each other in a tiny Montana town that needs them both.

While Josh and Katrina were an interesting couple to watch as they fell in love, I actually enjoyed the secondary romance between Beau and Shannon much more, perhaps because they were both so hesitant to believe they were worthy of the other’s attention, and so were more careful and more easily hurt by their own mistaken assumptions of the other. The layout of the town and its citizens was set up fairly well to introduce the series, although I’m still confused as to how an ER can exist independently of the only medical clinic in town when it’s constantly asserted that there aren’t enough trained people to fully staff both.

Ultimately there were two elements of MONTANA ACTUALLY that made it less enjoyable than I had anticipated. One was the decision to have a secondary character intrinsic to the lives of the core family for this new series fall ill with what initially seemed to be nothing big but eventually became terminal. Others may disagree, but for me it came across as an emotional shortcut required to bring both the primary and secondary romantic couples together more quickly than they might have under less traumatic circumstances.

The other element I found frustrating in this book involves one of my major pet peeves in any romance where sex is presented: inconsistent condom use. The first time Josh and Katrina decide to have sex, there is much discussion, both humorous and serious, about safer sex and making sure that they use a condom. This was a great scene and I was so happy it was included. And then there was never even a brief mention of condoms ever again! It’s always annoying and distracting for me when romance couples do and then don’t use condoms, but when one is a doctor and the other is a nurse? Add to that the periodic assertions by each about how much they want children in the future, and I was nearly convinced that there would be a surprise pregnancy by the end of the book. (Spoiler alert: There isn’t.)

Between the emotional manipulation and the condoms gone missing which took me out of the story, I was just not as happy with MONTANA ACTUALLY as I wanted to be. I do think there’s a good base here from which a successful series can continue, and I’m not sorry I read it. But I’m hoping that future books in the Medicine River series are more like Fiona Lowe’s BOOMERANG BRIDE, a book I adored, than this one.

View all my reviews

Review: Never Let You Down by Joely Sue Burkhart

Never Let You DownNever Let You Down by Joely Sue Burkhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at Night Owl Reviews.

Review Excerpt:

Much like the unconventional relationships highlighted in each of the previous Connagher books, NEVER LET YOU DOWN also features an unconventional way of telling the multi-layered story of Virginia and Jeb’s romance. We have a view of the present day as Jeb returns to woo the woman he’d never stopped loving. We also view the past, as all the questions about how he is inextricably linked to Virginia and Ty are eventually answered in full. And then, as the past and present wind their way around each other toward the anticipated HEA, a third voice enters the story in the form of a book within the book — a slightly over the top erotic western romance with a more than passing resemblance to the love story being told in the rest of the book. This manner of storytelling is risky with the danger of confusing the reader, but I was able to easily keep the three portions separate while appreciating how they all fit together as closely as Virginia, Ty, and Jeb did by the end of the book. It’s a beautiful love story in all its combinations, and a wonderful addition to one of my favorite erotic romance series.

View all my reviews

1 2 3 21

%d bloggers like this: